Hospital CEOs--not doctors--among medicine's top earners

Healthcare and insurance executives' base pay outstrips physician salaries, according to an analysis for The New York Times by Compdata Surveys. 

Hospital CEOs on average earn a base pay of $386,000 and hospital administrators make an average of $237,000, the analysis found.  But even though physicians are the most highly trained professionals in the healthcare industry, surgeons earn an average of $306,000 and general doctors make $185,000, according to the Times.

But those salaries don't take into account that top hospital executives earn most of their income from non-salary compensation, according to the article. For example, in 2012, the year he retired, Ronald J. Del Mauro, former president of Barnabas Health in New Jersey, earned a salary of $28,000 but had a total compensation package of $21.7 million.

But the highest earners are top health insurance execs. Aetna CEO  Mark T. Bertolini,  for instance, earned a salary of $977,000 in 2012 but his total compensation package was more than $36 million.

"The pay for the top five or 10 executives at insurers is pretty astounding--way more than a highly trained surgeon," Cathy Schoen, senior vice president for policy, research and evaluation at the Commonwealth Fund, told the Times.

Doctors aren't pleased about the widening gap, especially given that the administrative costs result in inflated charges for medical services, according to the article. "Most doctors want to do well by their patients," said Abeel A. Mangi, M.D., a cardiothoracic surgeon at the Yale School of Medicine, in the article. "Other constituents, such as device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies and even hospital administrators, may not necessarily have that perspective."

Last month Hans Rechsteiner, M.D., a surgeon in Wisconsin led a backlash against the prices after he discovered a brief outpatient appendectomy he performed for $1,700 generated a $12,000 hospital bill for the patient.

Although the healthcare industry boasts some of the highest paid professionals in any business, it also has staff that earn the lowest salaries, the Times noted. An emergency medical technician typically earns an annual salary of $27,000, the analysis found, while the average staff nurse receives $61,000 a year.

To learn more:
- read The New York Times article and salary list

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